• 26 Aug 2014 /  Interview

    Here we go, proper journalisticalisationism from VeVo, as I chatted to Varsity Blood director, writer, and all-round slasher movie aficionado Jake Helgren.

    If nothing else can be learned from this video, it’s that the nickname my friend Lorna has for me – ‘Chimpy’ – is rooted in some degree of accuracy. Those ears o’ mine…



  • 20 Aug 2014 /  Reviews

    VARSITY BLOOD

    2014/15/84m

    “School’s out forever.”

    Director/Writer: Jake Helgren / Cast: Lexi Giovagnoli, Wesley Scott, Debbie Rochon, Chris Hlozek, Natalie Peyton, Melody Herron, Elyse Bigler, Blair Jackson, Jesse Ferraro, Payton Wood, Fabian Watkins, Kiarra Hogan, Taylor Moessinger, Manuel Chapa, Elle LaMont.

    Body Count: 15

    Laughter Lines: “Stop screwing with me and get in here and screw me already.”

    __________________________________________________________________________

    Filmed in the same school as 1999 football-is-life flick Varsity Blood (and incidentally the high school of director Jake Helgren), this Texan ode to all things 80s-slasher follows a group of jocks and cheerleaders as they prepare for a private Halloween night shindig after a successful game.

    It also happens to occur one year to the day since the principal’s daughter died in an alcohol-fueled mishap. Hmm, are you thinking what I’m thinking?

    I was thinking about Moldova’s 2012 Eurovision entry. So probably not.

    New girl-cum-cheerleading pro, Hannah (Lexi Geophysionomics), is under strict orders from Mom (Debbie Rochon) not to hang out with her sports pals, who are clearly colluding to keep the details of last year’s accident a big fat secret. But somebody knows… Somebody who dons the costume of the Hogeye Warriors’ mascot – a Native American Apache – and sets about laying the guilty teens to waste for their sins. And he’s nifty with a bow and arrow.

    Requisite early-on murder aside, we wait until Hannah manages to convince Mom to let her go for a burger for the carnage to begin. Here, Helgren checks off some of the genre boxes: A scary farmhouse in the middle of nowhere (with no cellphone reception), horny teenagers, boobs, drugs, stupid rationales that ensure the group find reasons to KEEP GOING OUTSIDE!

    While some viewers will doubtlessly want things to hurry up and get to the killin’, this section provided an engaging, almost celebratory look at Americana and the customs of small-town-high-school life before destroying it.

    Who is the killer? We have a pretty good idea as to why he or she is doing what they are, but with an array of background suspects, Hannah is thrust into a real Scooby Doo of an unmasking. I didn’t guess correctly, but on the other hand I wasn’t blindsided either.

    As a real love letter to all things slashtastic and 80s, Varsity Blood - just like its sister film Bloody Homecoming – harks back to the glory days, with a myriad of nods to Friday the 13th, Prom NightThe Prowler, and almost any other motive-driven teen slasher from 1981 (there was even House of Death vibe, albeit not as trippy).

    While in the meta age we live in, where the pull of slasher films has reverted to their 1990s flatline status, it would be easy to poke fun at the dim-witted characters that populate Varsity Blood, there’s a sense purity driving it that retains the kind of formula that is more often than not traded in for quippy, self-aware dialogue, torture porn, or parody in recent examples. It also helps that at least half the characters are far more likeable than the usual douchebags that dominate horror these days.

    Some occasional wobbly acting notwithstanding (what 80s film would be complete without a line like “I thought I saw somebody watching us from behind those trees…”?), given that the production budget is a fraction of even Halloween‘s 1978 costs, the look of the film is pretty damn impressive.

    It may not be difficult to predict the turns that VB makes, but therein lies its base appeal: It’s uncompromisingly a straight-up slasher film and pretends to be nothing else, and that’s what makes it a fun ride.

    Blurbs-of-interest: Lexi Unpronounceable and Jesse Ferraro were both in Bloody Homecoming; Debbie Rochon’s low-budg. horror resume is extensive to say the least, including Bleed, Blood Relic, Head Cheerleader, Dead Cheerleader, and American Nightmare among others.

    ***SEE VEVO’S INTERVIEW WITH JAKE HELGREN***



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  • 15 Aug 2014 /  Interview

    Vegan Voorhees ventured a little bit outside of its comfort zone this week by using that NCTJ qualification and conducting an actual interview!

    The subject of my horror-inquisition was Phil Hawkins, director of about-to-drop Robert Englund-starring Brit horror The Last Showing, which enjoys it’s European premiere on August 22nd at FrightFest, and features that unsung head-bands and cannibals Craven-shamer, The Hills Have Eyes Part II. My life’s mission to up its rep from ‘absolute shite’ to ‘mediocre’ was on.

    Read, and be excited…

    VeVo: Hey Phil, how’s it going?

    PH: I’m very good thanks.

    VeVo: For the benefit of anybody who doesn’t know, can you give a summary of what The Last Showing is about from your perspective?

    PH: It’s about a life-long projectionist (Englund) who is made redundant at a multiplex that he’s given his life to and decides to exact his revenge on a generation that seems to no longer require his skills. Because we know everything’s gone digital in multiplexes now, and it’s a shame all these very talented projectionists have effectively become extinct. A lot have given their lives to the craft, in some cases it’s been a skill handed down through generations, so that was the inspiration behind that character of Stuart, but given a nice psychological horror twist.

    VeVo: What caught my eye when I was scanning the FrightFest line-up was the inclusion in the film of The Hills Have Eyes Part II, which is a film I am genuinely quite fond of, despite it’s ornate naffness…

    PH: [Laughs] Wow! One of few I imagine… I think even Wes Craven disowned it.

    VeVo tries – and fails – to justify strange love for awful movie: What are your thoughts on it?

    PH: I have to say I’m probably not in the same camp as you, though I’ve obviously watched it a number of times. The thinking behind it was that as The Last Showing is a sort of meta-horror, so it’s allowed me a kind of canvas to sort of air my frustrations on what modern day horror has become. You’ll see a lot in the film of Robert Englund’s character ranting about the modern day movies, and that’s effectively my voice really. What I wanted to do was highlight the difference between horror on film and the “real horror” of what the couple is about to go through. So I wanted the most ridiculous, over the top horror movie that could be found. Given our budget we couldn’t have had the pick of anything, and also because it’s Wes Craven, and he’s a legend of horror, and we’re able to reference him in the movie, which is fun because of the connection between him and Robert. I hadn’t actually seen it beforehand, I’d heard of it because of what you hear about it, but it made me smile.

    My favourite horror movies are things like Rosemary’s Baby, Carrie, The Exorcist, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, films with a bit more of a psychological slant on horror. Any film that affects your perception of reality or your own mind, that’s ultimately scarier than torture porn for me. So The Hills Have Eyes Part II was useful to show the sort of slapstick of horror, and contrast that with the couple watching it. I also like that Allie (played by Emily Berrington) is the one who is the horror nut and convinces Martin (Finn Jones) to attend a midnight screening. It does exactly what we needed it to.

    VeVo: What do you hope The Last Showing will be able to bring to horror that’s kind of absent from recent output?

    PH: Hopefully just that people enjoy it as a movie, but it gave me the opportunity to kind of comment on horror as a whole. I could take the tick-boxes that horror audiences enjoy and slightly twist them, because we have Robert Englund as a movie maker creating his own horror, so we’re almost able to have those cliched moments with the film-within-a-film aspect.

    [We take a couple of minutes to correctly sing the praises of The Orphanage]

    It’s certainly not to say that all modern horror is awful, because that’s not the case, but for my personal tastes I wanted to air a few frustrations through hopefully what is a fun and entertaining horror thriller. I wrote the kind of film I would want to see, and it’s good that it’s been embraced by horror fans and got it’s slot at FrightFest.

    VeVo:  I’m sure you’re sick of being asked, but considering his legendary status, how was it working with Robert Englund?

    PH: The thought of it was more nerve-wracking than the practice, but he read the script very quickly and we had a two hour phone conversation talking about the script and his character, and he had so many ideas about it and he responded so well to it. He has this encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema, he got all the little references I’d written in. It’s also a whole arc for his character, he’s not just a cameo, and he saw the fun in it. I never thought we’d get him in a million years. He has an amazing commitment and dedication on set, because he genuinely cared about the project, so it was a pleasure working with him. He has a real respect for the fans and the genre.

    VeVo: So, comparably, how did the young actors (Berrington and Jones) cope as the protagonists, with the weight of acting against Robert Englund?

    PH: Both are rising stars in their own rights, Finn was in Game of Thrones and Emily in The White Queen, 24, and The Inbetweeners 2, so it was an amazing crop of talent with a horror legend and the ‘fresh blood’, as it were. They brought so many ideas and different ways of approaching a scene that you might not have thought of, which is always fascinating for me as a director. The amazing energy of someone like Finn against the old-school energy of Robert creates a really interesting dynamic in their scenes together.

    VeVo: I saw Finn in Wrong Turn 5 a couple of years ago.

    PH: I’ve not seen that one, but I think Finn probably had some fun with that. He has a speech in The Last Showing about Hollywood photocopying something over and over against with diminishing quality, so it kind of ties in nicely. If they do so many wrong turns, do they eventually make it back around to the beginning?

    VeVo: Well, Wrong Turn 6 is playing at FrightFest, so there’s a chance…

    We talk for a bit about production quality (95% of The Last Showing was shot via a crane to avoid the handheld shakiness the plagues British cinema), the ‘up north’ cinema where it was shot, and return to my love of The Hills Have Eyes Part II. Phil is still not convinced.

    VeVo: What’s next for you?

    PH: I run a production company, so we have a slate of film we’re producing. A film called Baptism, shot on the London Underground with a slightly bigger budget than we had here. It’s a really exciting time at the moment and hopefully the horror fans at FrightFest and beyond will enjoy the film.

    Phil Hawkins (centre) with the cast of The Last Showing

    .

    There we have it, British non-zombie horror is far from DOA after all. Catch The Last Showing at FrightFest on August 22nd, where Phil – and Robert Englund – will be taking some Q&A and then on DVD from the 25th.

    Then return here where it will totally be reviewed in the near future… possibly as part of a double bill with HHE II. Which I still think is awesome.

    Thanks to Paul Bradshaw for the tips.

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  • 06 Aug 2014 /  VIP's of Slasherdom

    At the request of reader @horrordad, our second inductee to the Slasherdom Hall of Whatever™ is stoner shelf-stacker extraordinaire, Bub, of awesomely gooey supermarket slasher, Intruder, played by Burr Steers, who went on to have an impressive Hollywood career, appearing in Pulp Fiction, and directing Zac Efron flick 17 Again, amongst other pursuits.

    “Brain hemorrhage!”

    .

    Missive: To fritter his earnings from the Walnut Lane Market on pot and then claim unemployment.

    Backstory: He was once nearly killed by checkout girl Jennifer’s psychotic ex, saved only when his friend hit the attacker repeatedly with a Hamilton Bleech blender.

    Why we love him: Bub’s lo-fi stoner schtick – this was the age of Bill & Ted – just make him likable. He also cops one of the more inventively gruesome demises in the film: Head forced into a hydraulic box compressor. Ouch.



  • 01 Aug 2014 /  Reviews

    SCARED

    2005/82m

    Director/Writer:  Pakphum Wonqjinda / Writer:  Prachya Pinkaew / Cast: Borvornipoch Jaikunta, Napapa Tantrakul, Chitjun Rujiphan, Amonphan Gongtragan, Sumonrat Wattanaselarat, Thandthai Auramornrat, Wongtep Kunrattanawat, Sudprach Aungtrakul, Park Wannasiri.

    Body Count: 18

    _______________________________________

    Detailing the plot of this grisly Thai dead-teenager flick could prove problematic, ’cause the DVD has no English subtitles, despite the film itself coming with English translations of the credits.

    A large group of freshmen students set off on a hazing trip, which runs into entry problems and they foolishly follows the advice of a local vagrant who knows of a bridge they can cross to their destination. About half the kids decide to give it a go and end up stranded when the rickety old bridge collapses, taking their bus, the driver, and several of their friends to the bottom of the river…

    Clambering ashore and splitting into two groups after some kind of disagreement amongst themselves, three boys quickly fall into a variety of lethal traps that skewer and impale them. The other, larger group (mostly girls) finds a deserted old town, but also cross paths with a brutal killer, who uses car windows, exhaust fumes, and regular garden tools to do them in – nearly every slaying here is bloody.

    Thailand has taken a few ‘stabs’ at creating gory slashfests before, ranging from the entertaining but cheap 999-9999, to the predictable and dull Crying Tree. Scared is probably their best effort yet, fusing ideas lifted from the Final Destination films (the bridge collapse is well choreographed, with a nasty pole-through-the-face for the unlucky bus driver), old school kids-in-the-woods slashers, and ending in a cruel twist that’s reminiscent of Battle Royale.

    There are some memorable gore-drenched moments, especially when the shyer kids fight back: A girl goes for a maniac with a corn-saw, clearly having seen enough violence for one day.

    The lack of subtitles and linguistic differences mean that characters become indistinguishable when we don’t really know their names in the first place, though there are some genuinely sad moments as kids find their dead friends and weep for them, but with a plot this simple, you’ll be having such a good time you won’t even notice!



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